Board Approves Shuttle Bus Purchase, Boiler Replacement; Mulls Infrastructure Report

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education regular meeting (September 30, 2105): Forsythe Middle School auditorium

The board is holding an executive session at 5:30 PM, citing attorney/client privilege.

During the regular meeting, beginning at 7:00 PM, the trustees will hear an update on facilities and infrastructure. There will be first briefings on the Rec & Ed Catalog Contract for 2015/16; Bryant and Carpenter Elementary Schools Playground Upgrade Projects; Locksmith Services Contract; Huron Auditorium Air Handling Unit Replacement Contract; and Burns Park Boiler Replacement Project.  

The board will be presented with special briefings on a shuttle bus purchase and  the Bach Elementary Stephen’s Theater Project.

Voting tonight will be on the shuttle bus purchase, the theater project, and the Clague Walking Trail project approval.



7:07 Hamza Baccouche: student asking that the board consider making Eid a formal holiday in the school calendar.

7:10 PM Patricia Mazzola: STEAM parent, commuter parent, PTO traffic brigade: concerned about 28 person shuttle van purchase. Is wondering why this purchase is necessary and is asking that the board hold off on the purchase. Parent surveys, contacted churches nearby. Had good feedback from parents. Proposed remote bussing, asked that the district consider that. More students in STEAM, traffic is an issue that is “not going to go away.” Wondering how they choose which 28 students get to ride that bus.


BPSSG: Ryan Griffin, Scarlett parent. Held three meetings so far, excited so many people have attended. Main goal: foster strong meaningful alliances with schools, and build students’ resources. Most concerning topic: achievement gap. Would like more specifics about it and would like to hear more about what the district is doing about it. Asking that someone from the admin/board attend one of their meetings.

Thomas: how pleased I am that there is representation from BPSSG at the meeting tonight. Says it has been a long time since there has been a presence from that group at a meeting. Looks forward to working with them.


7:18 PM Mexicotte notes that they appreciate all the work that has been done to keep guns out of schools. School charge to keep their students safe. So pleased that the judge ruled in the district’s favor. As Swift says, “for our students and our community, a great day in Ann Arbor Public Schools.” Moving forward with policies and their commitment to that issue.


7:19 PM Superintendent Jeanice Swift: Responded to BPSSG – so proud they are here. She looks forward to meeting with them, looking forward to the opportunity to share data. Regarding shuttle bus – shuttle will be added to overall buses. Swift noted that she receives updates from “traffic brigade,” and said she’s interested in their work and ongoing feedback. Says they will be working with that parent group, especially as the weather turns.

Swift shared her excitement over the court ruling in favor of keeping guns out of AAPS schools. She also shared the news that Arne Duncan, US Secretary of Education, recognized Angell and Wines Elementary Schools as Blue Ribbon of Excellence Schools. Honor is presented to reps of about 300 schools across the country. 13 in Michigan this year. Ceremony will be in November in DC. Congratulated the principals and staff of Angell and Wine, along with their parents and communities.

Swift noted items of note at Lawton Elementary, Carpenter Elementary, Pioneer High School. Swift concluded her Back to School tour, in which she visited each of the 31 campuses in AAPS. Says she wants to publish a collection of classroom doors, as she was so “inspired by the messages” of the doors.


7:28 PM PLANNING COMMITTEE: Vice President Christine Stead shares what the planning committee talked about at its last meeting. Highlighted a couple items in terms of infrastructure and planning that might be moved to a special briefing this evening, specifically: Carpenter and Bryant Elem playground update [which would mean that it would be voted on tonight]. Huron Auditorium, Burns Park boiler replacement project. Noted that it is the recommendation of the planning committee that they have an external review of the district’s infrastructure. Stead says a comprehensive review could save money in the long run by allowing the board to be more proactive in repairs.

Stephen’s Theater: not funded through school funds, as the money was all raised by the community. Stead asks that they celebrate it, as it represents a memorial to a student.


Thomas: performance committee has not yet met. Still working out schedules.


Mexicotte: governance has not yet met. Still working out schedules between committee members.


7:35 PM Swift: Most recent physical properties report completed in 2010 by an external group, PSI. Average age of school buildings above 50 years. Community expectation of updating and upgrading facilities of how buildings should function for students. Newer buildings – temperatures can be controlled remotely; not so with older buildings.

2015 bond last May – investment in over 3.3M square feet. Cost of maintaining in good condition, and planning out ahead for a 5-10 year plan. Adding in, comforts and efficiencies coming to expect in newer buildings.

Thomas: Asks how 2010 study informed decisions made over the past five years. Notes that the district is currently in an external review of capacity. Wonders if they overlap, or if they could be combined.

Swift: In depth infrastructure study is a long-term endeavor, usually taking 12-18 months. Notes that Tim Gruszczynski, Executive Director, Physical Properties updates the report annually.

Gruszczynski notes that the 2010 report is used annually to help guide facility decisions made. Also makes updates on an annual basis. PSI brought in roof, pavement specialists, and construction analysts.

Thomas asks if the report is still useful, as a 10-year plan. Gruszczynski says that while the district has made a lot of facility improvements, they are working with how technology integrates with those improvements. Burns Park – 100 year piping system, operating on pneumatic controls. As new technology boilers are integrating with older boilers, encountering difficulties. Gruszczynski says they are trying to use their “ingenuity” to work around some of those problems. Tough winters have tested the systems, he notes. A ten-year plan is industry standard and should see them through.

Trustee Patricia Manley: notes that when she was principal at Thurston, they were always having problems. Mexicotte replies that they did replace many boilers during the Comprehensive School Improvement Plan work [2004-2007]. Some boilers were not replaced, as they were not seen as top priority at the time. That has shifted as time has went by.

Trustee Donna Lasinski: accuracy or predictability factor of forecasting is five years. Stead: district has a good detailed plan for 3 years, and then gets “a little categorical” as they can only estimate. Good argument for a comprehensive review.

Trustee Susan Baskett: so what is the ask? What is the board being asked to do? Mexicotte says that they are being asked if they should direct Swift to do a detailed external infrastructure report. When Baskett asks what the cost was, Swift says that she will come back with a number. Baskett also asks if the time frame (18 months) could be shortened. Gruszczynski says that they now have a much more comprehensive view of what is needed, so time and cost could be limited.

Stead: charge the superintendent to think about the parameters of the report. Open to considering how technical report should be. What kinds of major items board needs to be thinking about, buildings that need to be refreshed. Stead’s steps: frame a scope of services that could be put out for an RFP, see who submits a bid.

Thomas: thinks they should shrink the time frame that is covered in the plan. Mexicotte summarizes, saying that she is hearing that the board is open to such a plan, looking for a recommendation from Swift to the timing and scope of such a report.

Stead: capacity study done at end of October, start of November, Would like facilities/infrastructure report done as closely to capacity study as possible. Board has proven to the community that “they can be the masters of their own destiny,” as they change trajectory of district and some of the campuses [referencing Northside STEAM campus].

Mexicotte: Best case scenario, looking at another year before such a comprehensive report would be completed. Until then, would be using the work done previously to inform some of those decisions over the next year.


8:04 PM Rec & Ed Catalog Contract for 2015/16

Jenna Bacalor, Executive Director Community Relations & School Wellness: five catalogs distributed throughout the year. Four seasonal catalogs mailed to 80,000 households, along with one summer camp catalog. Funding for catalog fund comes from recreation funds – participation and advertising fees pay into the fund.

Three bids received. Bacalor recommends awarding the contract to Grand Blanc Printing – Option 3: 2 year contract in the total amount of $107,816. Their bid was the lowest of the three. The district has worked with this company before and was satisfied with the quality of their service.

Thomas: asks why a printed catalog is printed at all when so much can be done online. But notes that the audience for Rec and Ed classes might be older and likes to have a printed copy around. In response, Bacalor says they look to the recommendation of the parent national organization, which has found when organizations get rid of print catalogs, have found a significant decrease in enrollment. She is strongly in favor of keeping printed catalog. Thomas wonders if they can get by with fewer catalogs, maybe only three per year. Expresses concern over costs of printing and postage.

Mexicotte clarifies that the money comes from Recreational Fund, and that is money the rec and ed department feels is important to spend.

Baskett thanks Bacalor for taking her recommendation in getting a multi-year bid. Baskett asks about printing numbers, to which Bacalor says the printing number has been steady, based on zip code saturation, which is based on number of households. Baskett is “fine” with the printing.

8:16 PM Bryant and Carpenter Playground Upgrade Projects

Swift: notes that 2015 Bond included an upgrade to most of the elementary school playgrounds. Bryant and Carpenter playground updates were already moving ahead before the bond approval. There will be a full advisory group for future improvements to other elementary schools. Dawn Linden Executive Director, Elementary Education, says she is excited to introduce improvements to the elementary playgrounds, given their importance to communities.

Playground committees are “very well attended” and well attended, according to Gruszczynski. Schools voted on structures, working within their budget.

Gruszczynski asks that the board award Sinclair Recreation of Holland, Michigan a contract for Bryant Playground Upgrade Project in the amount not to exceed $64,900.00 based on qualifications and price.  He also asks that the board award Miracle Midwest of Okemos, Michigan a contract for Carpenter Playground Upgrade Project, Option #1 in the amount not to exceed $63,138.00 based on qualifications and price. Both contracts would be funded through the 2015 Bond Fund.

Baskett questions the safety of one of the webbed structures proposed at Carpenter. Bryant will have some out-of-date structures removed and will have the wood chips base removed, replaced by a safer compound.

Lasinski commends both Linden and Gruszczynski on the process of community involvement. Gruszczynski defers to the building principals. When the investment is made, playgrounds reflect the personality of each school. Proud the time was taken to unite the community over the playground improvements.

Old equipment cannot be reused, so is instead put into the recycling stream, says Gruszczynski. Baskett also noted her alarm at students putting lanyard strings around their necks during the first weeks of school.

Mexicotte asks if there is a desire to move both of these items to special briefings, which means the board will vote on the Bryant and Carpenter playground improvements. The board agrees.

8:33 PM Locksmith Services Contract

Swift: instead of having a locksmith on hand at the district, the contract is for locksmith services three times a week. The recommendation is to award The Enrico Group, Inc. of Wixom Michigan a contract for Lock Shop Services in the amount not to exceed $50,000.00 based on qualifications and price.  This contract is funded through the 2015 General Fund.

Baskett: what does a locksmith do? $50K sounds like a lot of money. Gruszczynski says that when the district did locksmithing work internally, they had two full-time people on staff who made keys, cores. Local locksmith companies do not feel comfortable providing on-site help, says Gruszczynski.

8:36 PM Huron Auditorium Air Handling Unit Replacement Contract 

Gruszczynski says that this is “one of those unforeseen capital needs.” Currently, the air handling unit is running at a reduced capacity. The recommendation is to award Goyette Mechanical Co. of Flint, Michigan a contract for Huron Auditorium Air Handling Unit Replacement Project in the amount not to exceed $135,620.00 based on qualifications and price.  This contract is funded through the 2015 Bond Fund.

Baskett asks where the air handling unit was on the priority list. She’s trying to get a sense of what they had initially prioritized versus what has happened. Five years ago, Gruszczynski said, the air unit was fine.

8:40 PM Burns Park Boiler Replacement Project

Swift introduces this, noting that Burns Park is one of the district’s oldest buildings. Marios Demetriou, Assistant Superintendent
Finance & Operations, says that when he saw the quote come across his desk, he “almost choked.” He explaines that the structure where boiler is located is right next to the building. To install the boilers, either they will need to remove the roof, or build the boilers in Pennsylvania, take them apart, transport them to Ann Arbor, and then reassemble them at Burns Park.

Gruszczynski says that the building housing the boiler used to house the coal used to heat the building. Mexicotte says that this sounds like a “classic ship in a bottle” problem.

Thomas: former boilers were 18 years old, with a 20-25 year life expectancy.

The recommendation is to award Monroe Plumbing & Heating, Inc. of Monroe, Michigan a contract for Burns Park Boiler Replacement Project in the amount not to exceed $498,400.00 based on qualifications and price.  This contract is funded through the 2015 Sinking Fund.

Stead asks that this could also be moved to a special briefing, since winter is coming. She notes that they would like to get the new boilers into the building before the weather changes. Gruszczynski  says they would like to have it fully installed by the end of winter break, with the company saying it would take 8-12 weeks.

Because of the timing, the board agrees that the item will be moved to the consent agenda. Swift emphasizes that there is a plan in place to keep the school heated.


8:50 PM Stephen’s Theater Project at Bach Elementary

Swift thanks everyone in the community who was involved in designing an outdoor theater to honor a Bach Elementary student who passed away a couple years prior. Stephen would have been a fifth grader this year.

Gruszczynski noted that the project will be funded entirely by the Bach School PTO through private donations. The organization asks that the board award Michigan Hardscape of South Lyon, Michigan the Contract for Bach School Stephen’s Theater Project in the amount not to exceed $40,120 based on qualifications and price.

Stead notes that there will be a ribbon cutting ceremony on October 22. She thanks the whole team who was instrumental in the making this project a reality.

Baskett asks why Heaney Construction’s bid was so high, given that the district has given so much work to Heaney. Gruszczynski notes that Heaney is a contracting company and does not specialize in that specific work.

8:56 PM Shuttle Bus Purchase Approval

Swift: part of continuous improvement process in working with Durham transportation. Much of the work in district involves transporting small number of students.

Demetriou presents two shuttle buses for purchase approval. Buses would be used for transporting small number of students. Currently, the district transports “a large number” of students by taxi, due to the McKinney-Vento Act [the district is mandated to provide transportation for homeless students]. The shuttle busses will eliminate that need.

The recommendation is for the purchase of a used  2014 Chevrolet Starcraft Quest, 28 passenger, gasoline powered bus in the amount of $44,250.00 and a 2015 Ford 25-passenger, gas powered bus in the amount of $52,000. The purchase will be funded through the 2015 Bond Fund.

Demetriou notes that lower passenger buses are difficult to find, so they are requesting approval to proceed with the purchase of these two buses as soon as possible.

Lasinski asks what is driving the need for these purchases. Demetriou says that it will be more efficient to use a smaller bus size when transporting small number of students. It will not be dedicated for any specific school. Thomas wonders why the district has not done this in previous years, given the need. Demetriou notes that the WISD has been responsible for district transportation for the past five years.

Baskett clarifies that the intention for the buses were to right-size the needs. She says that at the board level, a shuttle purchase was never discussed regarding alleviating congestion at Northside. The rest of the board agrees, despite this language on BoardDocs: “the Ann Arbor Public Schools and Durham School Services have agreed that a small shuttle bus is necessary to transport students for several reasons:  Shuttling students to and from Northside to eliminate traffic congestion, transporting small athletic teams to events and extra-curricular activities.”


9:12 PM Clague Walking Trail Project: No further discussion from the board.


Up for a vote tonight:

  • Bryant and Carpenter Playground Upgrade Projects
  • Burns Park Boiler Replacement Project
  • Stephen’s Theater Project Approval (Bach Elementary)
  • Shuttle Bus Purchase Approval
  • Clague Walking Trail Project

The trustees unanimously approve the consent agenda.


Thomas says that they know they will have to add some instructional days, given the mandate from the state of the Michigan. He says that the board should engage with the community in regards to the mid-winter break. There should be a “full discussion” to listen to the community, to determine if it should be kept as is, shortened, or eliminated fully, as the district looks to add instructional time. It would not be for the 2015-16 year, but for the future. Lasinski clarifies that they are looking at mid-winter break because there is a state mandate to increase instructional time, and that “it is not just to kick the hornet’s nest.”

Thomas also asks that the Educational Foundation be given a chance to present to the board, given their role in fundraising for the district.

Stead asks that the trustees submit any additional wordsmithing on the board goals [presented at the 9/16 board meeting].


Lasinski met with the League of Women Voters and wants to emphasize their message of civic engagement by voting.

Baskett thanks the BPSSG for being present at the board meeting. and thanks Manley for her behind-the-scenes work at helping BPSSG get off the ground again.

Thomas thanks the counsel team who worked through the lawsuit regarding firearms in schools. He thanks the parents and members of the community who wrote in support of the district’s policy. He’s proud of the district for taking a stand in keeping guns out of schools.

Manley commends Swift and her team and everyone responsible for collaborating together to make a great start of the school year. Stead also adds in that she’s heard many good things about the start of the school year.


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